Tibet Protest March Attacked

A monk self-immolates to protest Chinese rule, sparking a wider demonstration.

lobsangphuntsog305.jpg Phuntsog in an undated photo.

Chinese security forces on Wednesday attacked Tibetan demonstrators near Kirti monastery in western China after a monk set himself on fire in protest at Chinese rule, according to Tibetan exile sources with contacts in the region.

The monk, Lobsang Phuntsog, 21, was kicked and beaten by police while they put out the flames and is believed to have died, witnesses said.

The protest took place on the third anniversary of a 2008 protest at Kirti, in the Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of China’s Sichuan province, in which Chinese police fired on a crowd of Tibetans, killing at least 10.

Lobsang Phuntsog, a monk at Kirti monastery, set himself ablaze at about 4:00 p.m. on March 16 and walked, shouting slogans, toward the market square in the town of Ngaba, a monk named Tsering at the India-based Kirti monastery in exile said, citing sources in the region.

“Chinese police and security people present in the area immediately came to the scene and kicked and beat him as they extinguished the flames,” Tsering said.

“Local Tibetans and Kirti monks came to his rescue and took Phuntsog back to the monastery,” he added. “Some say that he was taken to a hospital, but everyone believes that he is dead.”

Later, Tsering said, nearly 1,000 monks and people from the town, also shouting slogans, marched in protest a half mile down the road to the marketplace, but were attacked by Chinese police wielding clubs, knives, and electric batons.

Many of the marchers were severely injured, with some stabbed and an unknown number detained, Tsering said, citing local sources.

’Monastery ‘surrounded'

Lobsang Phuntsog set himself ablaze and walked, shouting slogans, toward the market square in Ngaba. Credit: RFA

A monk named Yeshe at the monastery in India, also citing contacts in Tibet, said that Lobsang Phuntsog was found to be badly burned and beaten when he was brought back to his monastery, and that he later died.

“The monks of Kirti monastery who saw his body said that even his tongue was completely burned,” he said.

Later in the evening, about 1,500 monks and 300 laypeople gathered at Kirti monastery to pray for the dead monk and to demand the release of some 30 monks detained by Chinese forces during the protest earlier in the day, Yeshe said.

“The monastery’s religious management committee head Alag Dhongkar and the disciplinary head went to the [the authorities] in Ngaba to appeal for their release,” Yeshe said.

“Their first request was rejected, but they went back, and at around 11:00 p.m. seven monks were released. One was named Lobsang Tashi, and another was named Nyita.”

Both Tsering and Yeshe said they were told by local sources that Kirti monastery is now surrounded by units of the Chinese People’s Armed Police and that phone connections in the area are being cut.

Calls seeking comment from local officials Wednesday afternoon rang unanswered.

Reported for RFA’s Tibetan service with translations by Rigdhen Dolma. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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